Proposed Nationwide Pfizer Vaccine Study Off the Table Skip to content

Proposed Nationwide Pfizer Vaccine Study Off the Table

By Gréta Sigríður Einarsdóttir

deCode Genetics CEO Kári Stefánsson
Photo: Golli. DeCode Genetics CEO Kári Stefánsson.

Iceland will not be a part of a Pfizer vaccine study, stated both Chief epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason and deCode CEO Kári Stefánsson after a meeting with Pfizer representatives yesterday afternoon. Iceland’s success in curbing the spread of the virus means that there are too few cases for the trial to yield noteworthy results to shed light on herd immunity against the virus.

Kári told RÚV: “We discussed a variety of possibilities of gaining new knowledge by performing such a study in Iceland and the conclusion was that we have too few cases for it to be possible. That’s indisputable. We’re victims of our own success.”

He states that we cant’ forget that the only justification for sending 500,000 doses of the vaccine to Iceland, ahead of others in Europe, would be if we could learn something from the research that would benefit the rest of the world. “Because the cases are so few, that would probably prove difficult.” Kári added that while this was known beforehand, “during the meeting, we went over all the knowledge that could be gained from such a trial in Iceland. Once we’d gone over that, the people in the meeting didn’t believe that was noteworthy enough to justify such an experiment.”

Kári further stated that the result was not a surprise to him and that they would not be seeking cooperation with other vaccine producers. “We can’t justify encouraging people to send vaccine to Iceland ahead of others if we can’t do a decent study.”

The proposed study would have shed light on herd immunity against the virus. When asked what sort of research had been proposed, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason told RÚV that it could have been data-based research, which would not have required informed consent from all participants, or a clinical trial, which requires such consent. Any mass vaccinations under the conditions of a Pfizer agreement would have constituted academic research.

Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir has stated that the Pfizer negotiations have always been informal and she had been prepared for the possibility that nothing would come of them. She told RÚV: “The fact is that this had never gone further than informal talks between scientists and was intended first and foremost as an academic study. There were never any papers on the table.” She added that a Pfizer vaccine trial was never a part of the government’s plan of action in dealing with the pandemic. “We’ve been working according to our plan which is to take great care with domestic infection prevention and border restrictions, and follow through on our vaccination efforts.”

The proposed vaccine study was first brought up shortly before the new year when Þórólfur and Kári brought up the possibility of such research to Pfizer representatives. Since then, there’s been a great deal of speculation on when and how such a study would work. Þórólfur told RÚV in December that Iceland offered great conditions for such a study as all infections variants discovered here underwent sequence analysis and the border was under close scrutiny.


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